Senator introduces bill requiring gun owners get a federal license

U.S. Senator Cory Booker speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Federation of Labor Convention hosted by the AFL-CIO at the Prairie Meadows Hotel in Altoona, Iowa. (Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia Commons)

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Legislation requiring gun owners to receive a federal license every five years was introduced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who has made gun safety a major issue during his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“This bill is based on a very simple concept – if you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and possess a gun,” said Booker, who first proposed mandatory gun licensing in May.

Booker’s bill would require would-be gun owners to be at least 21 years old and pass a firearm safety training course, undergo a criminal background check and provide fingerprints. The license would be valid for five years after which time the applicant must pass another safety course and another background check.

In addition, applicants must submit the make, model and serial number of the gun they want to buy, as well as the name of person they are buying or receiving the weapon from.

The measure follows several mass killings, most notably over a single weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

“We’re in the midst of a national gun violence crisis that is ravaging our country,” Booker said “The consequences of continued congressional inaction are deadly. There have been more mass shootings this year than number of days. We cannot continue to accept this shameful status quo.”

Booker said that states requiring licenses or permits to own a firearm have a lower rate of death than those who do not. New Jersey, with some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, had the sixth lowest firearms death rate in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Garden State had 5.3 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, less than half the rate of Texas, which has no license requirements, with 12.4.

The seven states with the lowest rates of deaths by firearms, including New Jersey, all require some licensing, while the seven with the highest rates do not, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports gun control measures.

On the campaign trail, Booker also called for mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, including from private sellers and online; a ban on military-style weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines; a cap on sale of handguns to no more than one a month; and prohibition on current or former domestic partners convicted of abuse or under restraining orders from buying guns, whether or not they were married.

He also called for repealing the protection from lawsuits given to gun dealers and manufacturers. That measure was supported by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was forced to defend his vote during his 2016 presidential run.

As mayor of Newark, Booker led gun buyback programs, and as a U.S. senator participated in a 2016 filibuster to force allow votes to expand background checks and prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. The bills reached the floor but the Senate Republican majority blocked debate.

In an August Quinnipiac University poll, 82 percent of U.S. voters supported requiring licenses to purchase weapons with just 16 percent in opposition. The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

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